Mandalay – The Ministry of Education said on Friday that it has formed a special committee to investigate the Mandalay University rector, Dr. Thida Win, over a controversial new food court on the university campus.
At a press conference in the ministry’s office, vice minister U Win Maw Tun announced that the investigation committee, chaired by him, the director general of the Department of the Myanmar Examiner and the rector of Mawlamyine University, will begin the probe on Sept. 7 and is due to finish the report within 10 days.
The announcement was followed by a protest by Mandalay University Students Union, which opened a protest camp inside the campus on Sept. 2.
The students sent complaints to President U Win Myint, the ministry and the anti-corruption commission asking for them to investigate the rector, Dr. Thida Win.
The students said the rector had not followed the tender rules issued by the Office of the President in early 2017.
“Accordingly to the ruling, the university must call for a tender and give the company or individual who wins the bid the contract to build the food court. However, the rector did not call a tender and simply gave the go-ahead to a businessman who is close to her. There was no transparency at all,” said Ma Yamin Thu, a spokesperson for the Students Union.
The government announcement demanded that an open bidding process must be published through state-owned newspapers at least twice.
The food court was built in early 2019 and is due to be run by one of Mandalay’s famous restaurants, the Oriental House. The food court was built on 715 sq m (7,700 sq ft) inside the campus near the university’s football field.
The students said the rector submitted a form in October 2018 to request permission to build the food court to the Department of Higher Education but did not provide the details.
“When we met the director general of the Department of Higher Education he said he thought the rector was going to renew the recreation center, although the detailed plans were not provided. He also said he asked the rector in November 2018 to consult the student union,” said Ma Yamin Thu.
The student union said it also expressed its concerns to Dr. Myo Thein Gyi, the minister for education, who said he only knew about the issue after the food court was built.
It added that the rector used fake signatures to prove the student union had agreed.
“The rector failed to explain the details of the food court to the students and even faked the signatures of the student union. They acted like the food court was built with the agreement of the students but it is not true,” said Ko Yan Paing Soe, a spokesman for the student union.
“We agree our campus needed a proper canteen, especially when hosting events. But we cannot accept it if it is constructed against the law, abusing authority,” he said.
The student union said representatives had been invited to submit their allegations to the vice minister’s investigation committee on Saturday.
“The protest camp will continue. We will see how the commission handles this unlawful matter. We hope a solution will be agreed after the investigation,” Ko Yan Paing Soe added.
Dr. Thida Win was unavailable for comment.
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